The first social forum held by the 15-M movement on Monday in Madrid received a surprise visitor in the form of Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner Joseph Stiglitz. The American economist is in Madrid at the invitation of the Socialist Party in his capacity as a member of the IDEAS Foundation Scientific Committee convened to assess the party.
Stiglitz met with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Socialist Party candidate for the general elections, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, on Tuesday but the previous day he took advantage of the gathering of hundreds of activists in the capital's Retiro park to deliver a 12-minute speech. The presence of the former Chief Economist at the World Bank was arranged by a group of doctorates from the Economic Sciences faculty at the Complutense University who have been participating in a summer course in San Lorenzo del Escorial on economic policy, organized in collaboration with the IDEAS Foundation.
These economists, who form part of the economic commission set up by the activists camped in Madrid's Puerta del Sol during the fledgling days of the 15-M movement, suggested Stiglitz might like to participate in the forum. The free-market skeptic and author of Globalization and its Discontents and Whither Socialism? delivered his discourse with the aid of a translator.
"The economic crisis has demonstrated the problems that capitalism is currently suffering, with markets that are run without regulation. The experience of the last three decades shows us that there is a necessity for states to recover an important role and to regulate the markets," Stiglitz said. "There are great necessities in the world that are not being covered - not just in Europe but in the USA as well. Seven million Americans have lost their homes because of the crisis and the situation is going to get worse because policies of austerity and tax reductions are being applied."
The economist said that the USA should take advantage of low interest rates to invest in education, technology and infrastructure, which bring significant returns. Stiglitz signed off with a message of support for the 15-M movement. "You cannot change bad ideas with the absence of ideas, but by seeking good ideas. It will be a tough fight because these bad ideas are well established in the dominant political and economic discourse."